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Three-point plan to improve mental health services

A three-point plan to improve mental health services in England has been proposed by Unite, the country's largest union.

The template for action follows stinging criticism of the mental health system by the Healthcare Commission. One finding revealed that 45% of psychiatric nurses and 15% of patients had been physically attacked in the last year.
Unite, which embraces the Mental Health Nurses' Association, called for:

  • Greater investment in terms of facilities, as well as staff support and training.
  • The establishment of national standards for inpatient care for facilities, as well as staffing levels.
  • Reinforcement of the need for closer and more integrated links between different parts of the mental health service.

Lead Officer for Mental Health, Unite Health Sector, Brian Rogers said: "Unfortunately, many of the criticisms in the report could have been anticipated. However, we believe that if the basic principles we have outlined were adopted strategically, this would have a beneficial effect in the wards.    
"We know there is massive variation in the standards of care services not just in England but throughout the UK. While there have been significant targets set on the numbers and nature of specialist community services, similar targets have not been set for inpatient services.

"A great deal of good work has been done, especially by mental health nurses, in terms of bringing the highest level of care and service to inpatient services. However, it is clear that issues such as staff shortages, particularly among the most experienced and senior grades, and poor standards of patient accommodation, with many older units 'not fit for purpose', have not been addressed.
"There is an overdependence on more junior staff, often healthcare assistants, and there does seem to be a direct correlation between the level of violence and how experienced staff are - the more junior staff facing an increased risk of violence.
"With the continual reduction in beds there comes the very real risk of overcrowding and a higher than safe bed occupancy rate. The levels of mental ill health required to get a bed have dramatically increased, so the levels of distress and disturbance has been increasing.
"Experienced staff in hospitals are now attracted by a career move into community services. Their skills are very much valued in many of the intensive home treatment services in the community, and such a move  reduces the level of stress that these nurses experience."

What do you think can be done to improve mental health services? Your comments: (Terms and conditions apply)

"Less red tape; know the client behaviour and state of health; respect and provide him/her with what he/she needs or wishes for; and do not force an issue because the client is always right." - Brandolini Rinaldo, Edgware, London